Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

By VPSN

May 21, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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FIELD NOTES: Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park

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photos by Geoffrey Daniel | words by Lehran Haché

Many North American Cities are struggling from age of automobile-planning hangovers. One of the most challenging symptoms of this affliction are the highways, freeways and train tracks built at the waters edge. Originally constructed in these locations to facilitate the movement of goods or afford a desirable view while users were car commuting, the usage of waterfronts has drastically changed in the last fifty or so years; now the movement of people to the waterfront is a more desirable use for socializing, active recreation and tourism. The question for city builders has become how do we move pedestrians and cyclists there? How do we make this a desirable experience despite the multi-lanes of vehicle traffic? Single lane utilitarian pedestrian bridges are often the leading (and cheapest) solution but miss an opportunity for creating a truly unique and inviting urban experience leading to the waters edge. Seattle took an alternate route.

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While recently in the Pacific Northwest’s largest city I had the opportunity to explore Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park. A massive infrastructural work built on a former industrial site that moves people over four lanes of traffic and three rail lines, all while creating Seattle’s largest green space (at 9 acres), an outdoor art museum, and a truly engaging link to the waterfront. The park opened in 2007 as a result of an international design competition and has been well loved and used since. I think it’s the transformation of place and the multi-layered stories of places like this that make city-building in this age truly exciting!
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More information and photos of the Olympic Sculpture Park from the winning designers can be found here.

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